While the belief has gained traction that foreigners play a large role in the spread of Covid-19 in the country, government figures appear to tell a different story, even as public anxiety rises over the daily fluctuations in numbers.
As of Tuesday, 13,504 cases were confirmed in Malaysia, a number which rose to 13,993 by Wednesday when an all-time high of 691 cases were reported. But data from the health ministry reveals that only 4.37% of transmissions involved foreigners.
A government officer close to the management of Covid-19 cases meanwhile said the number of positive cases involving foreigners was actually on the decline.
“This includes cases in Sabah such as undocumented migrants from the Philippines, and imported cases which are announced almost daily,” he told MalaysiaNow on condition of anonymity.
According to him, positive cases are mostly transmitted between locals.
“You can check all the data on them as we update our findings at each press conference held by the ministry,” he added.
He estimates that of every 10 people diagnosed with Covid-19, only two are foreigners or imported cases while the rest are citizens.
“I’m not sure of the exact ratio of citizens to non-citizens,” he added.
“But that is the comparison we can give.”
Foreigners quickly came under scrutiny once the Covid-19 virus was detected in Malaysia, with accusations of poor hygiene hurled at the Rohingya and those from Bangladesh and Pakistan.
To date, 82,076 foreigners have been screened for Covid-19, of which 3,589 were found to have the virus.
Of these, 3,301 or 92.03% were local transmissions while the remainder were imported cases.
A total of 75,438 foreign workers have tested negative with the results of 51 more still pending.
The number of cases involving foreigners rose at the end of the second phase of Covid-19 infections, around April to June, due to infections at the Sri Petaling tabligh and Selangor Mansion clusters.
The former was sparked by a gathering at the Sri Petaling mosque, attended by some 1,600 people, of whom 1,500 were foreigners.
When contacted, though, Universiti Putra Malaysia professor Dr Malina Osman said she believed the stigma against foreigners in the context of Covid-19 had subsided.
She said the assumptions of those who had disparaged foreigners were only perceptions and not grounded in hard facts.